Jewish World Review May 8, 2002/ 26 Iyar, 5762

Wesley Pruden

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Here's moral clarity,
in from the fog | Just when it looked like George W. was lost in a fog composed of two parts rhetoric and one part confusion, some of the sludge began to settle and moral clarity looked to be trying to emerge again, looking not much worse for wear. Maybe.

The White House, where nothing happens by coincidence, sent out its two heaviest hitters Sunday to take a ride in the great Washington spin machine.

Colin Powell, the secretary of state, and Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security adviser, followed each other from one studio to the next, speaking emphatically, dramatically and analytically, and saying exactly opposite things. Maybe there was method in contrived confusion. George W. had to be demonstrating what a clever fellow he is, apportioning Colin Powell to apply a little soft soap to dirty European and Arab ears and Condi Rice to talk sense to everyone else.

Mr. Powell sounded vaguely like his echo: The settlements in Gaza and the West Bank must go, and at once, before we can get moving on peace, prosperity and other good things for a new Palestinian nation.

When Sam Donaldson at ABC-TV asked him what he expected to accomplish with a restoration of the famous "peace process," he replied with expansive enthusiasm. Yasser Arafat's new freedom, granted by the Israelis under pressure from Washington, has given him surging popularity in the Palestinian precincts, and the prospective summer peace conference will produce some really neat things.

"There are lots of ideas," he said. "We have the basis of [United Nations resolutions] 242 and 338. We have the president's vision of April 4th. We have the Crown Prince's ideas. There are a number of ideas out there, and this will be an opportunity to explore all those ideas." Throw in a cure for cancer and an improved procedure for colonoscopy, and pretty soon you've got a real agenda.

This was the secretary of state singing the same old song out of the same old dog-eared songbook, with the words to "Amazing Grace" long since torn out, and not much to cheer a cheerless Sunday. But he was followed - this Sunday was a channel surfer's delight - by Miss Rice, carefully following not the secretary's theme, but the president's.

"We are going to be very clear that the Palestinian leadership that is there now, the Authority, is not the kind of leadership that can lead to the kind of Palestinian state we need." The meaning was clear: Washington's problem with Yasser Arafat is identical to Israel's problem with Yasser Arafat, not just that he is a terrorist cut to the same pattern as Osama bin Laden, but that a regime like the one he has put together will never, ever make peace, because once it does it has no further life or purpose.

The secretary was right that the president's speech of April 4 - just three days after he granted Mr. Arafat a waiver from his "you're either with us or against us" rule he called him "a failure" and said he should be replaced with "responsible Palestinian leaders" - reflected a cool-eyed vision of what has to be done to restore sanity if not stability to "the Holy Land."

We have to believe that George W.'s scheme is not to make peace, he knows that's not possible, but to buy time, to allow the Arabs to reinflate their flattened egos and the Israelis to catch their breath while the president proceeds with getting the Iraqi deliverance campaign back on schedule.

When Ariel Sharon arrives at the White House this afternoon with his 98 pages of solid evidence that Yasser Arafat is the essence of evil, he is not likely to get an argument from the president. No one in Washington, except a few true believers in Foggy Bottom, doubts that the Palestinian leader is just as deceitful, as duplicitous and as wicked as the Israelis say he is. Only yesterday the president said one more time that Mr. Arafat has "disappointed" him. This is surely wrong; surely he no longer has the ability or power to "disappoint" anyone.

"Purging Arafat," the Jerusalem Post remarked in an editorial yesterday, "is not an end in itself, but a means to helping the Palestinians transform themselves from a nation dedicated to destroying Israel to a nation working to build itself."

Yasser Arafat has demonstrated, abundantly, that he has no ability to destroy Israel and no interest in building Palestine. Who can imagine him paving a road, building a school or endowing a hospital? He has demonstrated an appetite for destroying children, not healing them. If this is the message Ariel Sharon delivers today and he gets no argument, the moral president should say so, with the clarity that will leave no one in a fog.

JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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